Remembering how Pedro Martinez dominated in a hitter-friendly 2000 season

Pedro Martinez had several great years in the hitter-friendly environment of the late 1990s and early 2000s, but none was better than 2000.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, we were witnessing possibly the most prolific hitter-friendly environment that MLB has ever seen, and the 2000 season might have been the most prolific of all. A total of 47 players hit at least 30 home runs (before the home run revolution we are witnessing now). An incredible 53 qualified players batted at least .300. (Compare that to just 17 who hit .300 in 2019.)

Put into that context, the numbers that Boston Red Sox ace Pedro Martinez put up in 2000 — playing in the American League, with the designated hitter — are astonishing. The future Hall of Famer certainly didn’t come out of nowhere, as he had won Cy Young Awards in 1997 and 1999 while finishing second in 1998. Yet 2000 was a season for the ages.

Martinez was a unanimous AL Cy Young Award winner in 2000, posting a minuscule 1.74 ERA over 29 starts. The next-highest ERA in the AL that year was Roger Clemens at 3.70. That’s right: Martinez averaged almost two full earned runs allowed per nine innings less than the next-closest competitor.

Martinez also led the league in the following categories: shutouts, strikeouts, ERA+, FIP, WHIP, hits per nine innings, home runs per nine innings, strikeouts per nine innings, and strikeouts per walks. One thing that made this campaign even more impressive was that he actually struck out fewer batters than he did a year earlier, while his walk rate per nine innings was a ridiculously low 1.3.

Martinez led the AL — hitters and pitchers — in WAR that year at 11.7; his nearest competitor was Alex Rodriguez at 10.4. Among pitchers, Brad Radke was second at 6.2. It’s the third-highest single-season WAR for a pitcher over the past 100 years, only behind Dwight Gooden in 1985 and Steve Carlton in 1972.

Martinez had a lot of great individual games that year as well. Of his 29 starts, he went at least six innings in 27 of them while striking out at least 10 in 15 of them. Some highlights:

  • On May 6 against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, he struck out 17 batters and pitched a complete game, allowing one run; unfortunately, it was the only run scored in a 1-0 Red Sox loss.
  • In his next start, against the Baltimore Orioles on May 12, he pitched a complete game shutout while striking out 15. He did the same thing against the Chicago White Sox on July 23; it was one of five straight starts in which he struck out double digits.
  • On May 28, he pitched a complete game shutout in New York against the rival Yankees.
  • Another shutout came on August 29 against the Devil Rays, when he also fanned 13.

For a pitcher to dominate the way Martinez did — given the era he pitched in — is something that I’ve never seen replicated in my lifetime. Will we ever see another season like it?

Next: Red Sox may benefit from lower expectations without Chris Sale

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